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View Full Version : Novel/ Screenplay - keeping ownership of the other


stainjm
08-22-2012, 05:35 PM
IF I sell a novel or screenplay, am I able to get it in my contract that I maintain the rights to do the other?

Meaning:

1) If I get a novel published and have written the screenplay, can I have it in there that I can still put the screenplay out there/ try to sell it?
2) If a company wants to option one of my scripts and I have written the novel but not published it, can I get it in my contract that novel rights are mine, and then still try to shop it around?

Just trying to get a realistic feel for what it's like when I reach that point. I try to do both for most of my concepts (helps catch errors and really flesh out concepts).

nic.h
08-22-2012, 07:52 PM
I just did this. (In July.) I sold my novel but my agent negotiated that I keep all screen rights. It was a deal breaker for me, though the House was fine with it. It's not a high concept story, and they don't worry too much about screen rights a lot of the time.

But I think that would depend on who you sign with. I've been picked up by Random House Australia, which is part of the Random House Group, exclusively a publishing house. A multi-media corporate might have a different attitude. Just be prepared to give something up if you meet resistance. Or fight for it and give nothing up. But usually there's some trade off.

I don't know if it works as easily the other way around - script to novel. My feeling is that people will still see the movie if they've read the book. Often because they've read the book. But I'm not sure people who see the movie are as keen to read the book after the fact. When they know how it ends.

No evidence to back this up, just an observation.

Staircaseghost
08-22-2012, 07:57 PM
It's not a question of it being in "there". Once your story is fixed in a tangible medium of expression i.e. once you've written it down somewhere, you own everything. Automatically. Novelizations, comic books, action figures, everything.

The only way this changes is if the person who's paying you for it takes the positive step of buying more from you.

mswriterj
08-22-2012, 10:14 PM
Congratulations, nic.h!

Like you, I am having a novel published (released this Halloween). It is in my contract that the publisher just has the novel rights, not any television or film rights.

SpecMan13
08-22-2012, 11:19 PM
Nice!!

DavidK
08-22-2012, 11:23 PM
IF I sell a novel or screenplay, am I able to get it in my contract that I maintain the rights to do the other?

Of course you are. The only rights you lose are the ones you agree to sell. However, when you sell a novel it's easier to keep all the other rights than when selling a screenplay, where the studio will often insist on owning a number of specific ancillary rights. Having said that, when you sell a script there are still a number of rights which are easy to retain such as novelization. Making sure these things are handled correctly is why you will always engage an entertainment attorney before signing a contract.

stainjm
08-22-2012, 11:38 PM
Thank you!

SoCalScribe
08-23-2012, 12:40 AM
IF I sell a novel or screenplay, am I able to get it in my contract that I maintain the rights to do the other?

Meaning:

1) If I get a novel published and have written the screenplay, can I have it in there that I can still put the screenplay out there/ try to sell it?
2) If a company wants to option one of my scripts and I have written the novel but not published it, can I get it in my contract that novel rights are mine, and then still try to shop it around?

Just trying to get a realistic feel for what it's like when I reach that point. I try to do both for most of my concepts (helps catch errors and really flesh out concepts).

Everything's negotiable in a contract, as long as you can get the other party to agree to it. With your first scenario, my understanding - someone please correct me if I'm wrong - is that authors retain the copyright and a publishing house will license the publishing rights so they can put the book out. The author thus retains all the other rights (like motion picture, stage, etc.) to the work. In the second scenario, it's a little trickier because production companies purchase the copyright and instead leave *you* with certain carve-outs and separated rights (like those granted in the WGA MBA). One of the rights the production company usually tries to hold onto are the novelization rights... and if you haven't published your novel yet, they may not be inclined to give you those rights since that's a potential revenue stream for them. Then again, if they like your work and you have a finished manuscript ready to go, you might be able to negotiate a fee of some kind for performing the novelization yourself.

fotonchev
08-23-2012, 02:53 AM
I had a different experience.
The couple of prodco's that requested my screenplay, in their release form specifically wanted all the rights transfered to them in case of a deal. But it's a high concept, suitable for sequels, and I guess that's why they wanted all.
I'm thinking of transferring the property of the novel to my wife (the novel is self pulbished), so the companies to stop blackmail me, as I'm willing to sell the screenplay or the film rights only.

DavidK
08-23-2012, 04:39 AM
One of the rights the production company usually tries to hold onto are the novelization rights... and if you haven't published your novel yet, they may not be inclined to give you those rights since that's a potential revenue stream for them.

I'm surprised to see this because conventionally novelization rights have been relatively easy to secure in most circumstances. Has there been a recent shift in this or are there particular situations in which novelization rights are difficult to retain?

SoCalScribe
08-23-2012, 11:47 AM
I'm surprised to see this because conventionally novelization rights have been relatively easy to secure in most circumstances. Has there been a recent shift in this or are there particular situations in which novelization rights are difficult to retain?

It really just depends on the company and the property. If they're planning on making Pirates of the Caribbean: The Novelization, that's a huge chunk of revenue they're going to get from the merchandising of the book. If they're planning on making Season of the Witch: The Novelization, that's probably not as big a deal. The biggest thing the OP has going is that the manuscript is already done. So there's really no reason not to at least try to get the novelization as part of the deal since it could potentially save them from having to hire another writer to adapt it into a book.

But I've been in negotiations where everyone could care less about the novelization... and others where it was a serious point of contention when the writer wanted to retain those rights (especially in the OP's stated position where he's not looking just for the right to write the novelization, but the freedom to take the book version of it away from the studio and shop it around to other buyers).

stainjm
08-23-2012, 11:57 AM
Good comments - heck, I could care less who published the book if the studio/ agent wanted a hand in it, I just don't know how I feel about them telling me 'we don't care if you wrote the book, throw it away.'

DavidK
08-23-2012, 07:11 PM
It really just depends on the company and the property. If they're planning on making Pirates of the Caribbean: The Novelization, that's a huge chunk of revenue they're going to get from the merchandising of the book. If they're planning on making Season of the Witch: The Novelization, that's probably not as big a deal. The biggest thing the OP has going is that the manuscript is already done. So there's really no reason not to at least try to get the novelization as part of the deal since it could potentially save them from having to hire another writer to adapt it into a book.

But I've been in negotiations where everyone could care less about the novelization... and others where it was a serious point of contention when the writer wanted to retain those rights (especially in the OP's stated position where he's not looking just for the right to write the novelization, but the freedom to take the book version of it away from the studio and shop it around to other buyers).

Helpful response - thanks.

mgwriter
08-24-2012, 12:16 AM
Novels can be time consuming to complete. In the meantime one might write and publish the short story version of their screenplay/story while they continue to work on novel and or shop the script. A published short story can provide all the same protection of rights as a novel in a fraction of the time to complete.

Some producers protect their story rights by writing a short treatment (short story) of their project, then copyright it. Then they hire screenwriters on a work for hire basis where the screenwriters have no copyrights and are lucky to even get paid.

I realize there are some minor technical differences between a treatment and short story, but they are minor and easily dealt with.

Short stories are easier to publish than novels, and if nothing else, a writer can publish an e-version of the short story through amazon/kindle and viola - you are now an AUTHOR.

Because of the way Hollywood has developed over the years, Authors have more power(control of copyrights) than Screenwriters.

It's in writer's best interests to act and think more like producers. So write the short story/treatment version of your project, copyright it, and take it a step further and publish it online or e-book. it a small step that makes a huge difference when it comes to story rights. Those who write screenplays only, generally are expected to sign over all rights to production entity. handing over all rights kind of sucks in the age of multiple-media outlets.

If at all possible, copyright the short story version FIRST and then copyright your screenplay stating on the form that the screenplay is a "derivative work" of your soon-to-be published short story.

If one does not know where to start in writing a short story, here's a generic formula I use with 3-act structure screenplays:

write these sections, imply all the other stuff, this sort of breaks the 'show-don't-tell' mantra, but only if you are unclever in how you indicate the unseen actions. this is more of an 'imply-don't-tell(or)show' kind of style

-minimal background/backstory
-act 1 inciting incident/hook
-act2 major challenge
-climax
-act3 resolution/plot twist

If your script is 3-act, then you'll be able to convey the story with just those things listed, maybe even less. I offer this only as an example for getting started. This is NOT a hard and fast rule, adjust to creative tastes. What this formula is, is fast. Your story can be published while you finish your novel or tweak that script. Most of the "stuff" that happens in your screenplay will happen "off the page" in your short story. for instance, instead of following a couple through the ups and downs of a relationship, we see them get together and we see them split. The tone at the beginning of the relationship and tone at end of the relationship will inform us as to what happened through the whole relationship without writing the whole thing out.

Hollywood killed screenwriting by squeezing the life out of the profession. That doesn't mean writers should stop writing screenplays. Instead writers need to be more clever in their approach. Much better to be a published author (short story e-book, articles, whatever) rather than an unheard of screenwriter who only writes spec screenplays. A possible response to the death of the screenwriting profession is to become an author instead, an author who also writes screenplays. The thing about screenplays is anyone can write them (cops, strippers, busboys). You don't need to label yourself "screenwriter", a label that can imply a whole lot of overly submissive behavior. Who has time for that?

It's easier than ever to become a published author and harder than ever to sell a spec script. Hello? Bueller? Publishing your short story before shopping the script won't change the universe, but it may provide a little more leverage when it comes to negotiating rights. And in terms of the time investment, it's miniscule compared to writing an entire novel or screenplay.

What if my short story sucks?
If it's based on your wonderful screenplay, guess what?
Yup, that 110 page concoction you're shopping might not be the bees knees after all.

peacefully we go.

stainjm
08-24-2012, 12:25 AM
Good stuff mg! I just received notice today of my first short story being published, so I'm on my way to following your advice.

JoJo
08-24-2012, 08:54 AM
Hollywood killed screenwriting by squeezing the life out of the profession. That doesn't mean writers should stop writing screenplays. Instead writers need to be more clever in their approach. Much better to be a published author (short story e-book, articles, whatever) rather than an unheard of screenwriter who only writes spec screenplays. A possible response to the death of the screenwriting profession is to become an author instead, an author who also writes screenplays. The thing about screenplays is anyone can write them (cops, strippers, busboys). You don't need to label yourself "screenwriter", a label that can imply a whole lot of overly submissive behavior. Who has time for that?

It's easier than ever to become a published author and harder than ever to sell a spec script. Hello? Bueller? Publishing your short story before shopping the script won't change the universe, but it may provide a little more leverage when it comes to negotiating rights. And in terms of the time investment, it's miniscule compared to writing an entire novel or screenplay.


peacefully we go.

Another brilliant post from my favorite DDer! :love:

mgwriter
08-27-2012, 10:33 AM
JoJo, you are far too kind, but thanks. ;)

mgwriter
08-27-2012, 10:34 AM
Good stuff mg! I just received notice today of my first short story being published, so I'm on my way to following your advice.

Good luck stainjm! Keep us posted how it works out.

mswriterj
08-27-2012, 10:45 AM
Good stuff mg! I just received notice today of my first short story being published, so I'm on my way to following your advice.

Where and when?! Very exciting.

stainjm
08-29-2012, 04:20 PM
Thank you - it is a new journal put out by some Hopkins folks, if you are curious I will post back here when it is out :)

mswriterj
08-29-2012, 04:25 PM
Thank you - it is a new journal put out by some Hopkins folks, if you are curious I will post back here when it is out :)


Please do!

Richmond Weems
08-29-2012, 05:00 PM
Novels can be time consuming to complete. In the meantime one might write and publish the short story version of their screenplay/story while they continue to work on novel and or shop the script. A published short story can provide all the same protection of rights as a novel in a fraction of the time to complete.

Some producers protect their story rights by writing a short treatment (short story) of their project, then copyright it. Then they hire screenwriters on a work for hire basis where the screenwriters have no copyrights and are lucky to even get paid.

I realize there are some minor technical differences between a treatment and short story, but they are minor and easily dealt with.

Short stories are easier to publish than novels, and if nothing else, a writer can publish an e-version of the short story through amazon/kindle and viola - you are now an AUTHOR.

Because of the way Hollywood has developed over the years, Authors have more power(control of copyrights) than Screenwriters.

It's in writer's best interests to act and think more like producers. So write the short story/treatment version of your project, copyright it, and take it a step further and publish it online or e-book. it a small step that makes a huge difference when it comes to story rights. Those who write screenplays only, generally are expected to sign over all rights to production entity. handing over all rights kind of sucks in the age of multiple-media outlets.

If at all possible, copyright the short story version FIRST and then copyright your screenplay stating on the form that the screenplay is a "derivative work" of your soon-to-be published short story.

If one does not know where to start in writing a short story, here's a generic formula I use with 3-act structure screenplays:

write these sections, imply all the other stuff, this sort of breaks the 'show-don't-tell' mantra, but only if you are unclever in how you indicate the unseen actions. this is more of an 'imply-don't-tell(or)show' kind of style

-minimal background/backstory
-act 1 inciting incident/hook
-act2 major challenge
-climax
-act3 resolution/plot twist

If your script is 3-act, then you'll be able to convey the story with just those things listed, maybe even less. I offer this only as an example for getting started. This is NOT a hard and fast rule, adjust to creative tastes. What this formula is, is fast. Your story can be published while you finish your novel or tweak that script. Most of the "stuff" that happens in your screenplay will happen "off the page" in your short story. for instance, instead of following a couple through the ups and downs of a relationship, we see them get together and we see them split. The tone at the beginning of the relationship and tone at end of the relationship will inform us as to what happened through the whole relationship without writing the whole thing out.

Hollywood killed screenwriting by squeezing the life out of the profession. That doesn't mean writers should stop writing screenplays. Instead writers need to be more clever in their approach. Much better to be a published author (short story e-book, articles, whatever) rather than an unheard of screenwriter who only writes spec screenplays. A possible response to the death of the screenwriting profession is to become an author instead, an author who also writes screenplays. The thing about screenplays is anyone can write them (cops, strippers, busboys). You don't need to label yourself "screenwriter", a label that can imply a whole lot of overly submissive behavior. Who has time for that?

It's easier than ever to become a published author and harder than ever to sell a spec script. Hello? Bueller? Publishing your short story before shopping the script won't change the universe, but it may provide a little more leverage when it comes to negotiating rights. And in terms of the time investment, it's miniscule compared to writing an entire novel or screenplay.

What if my short story sucks?
If it's based on your wonderful screenplay, guess what?
Yup, that 110 page concoction you're shopping might not be the bees knees after all.

peacefully we go.

This is so wrong, I don't even know where to begin.

But let me just say that one should not use the above advice to craft your short story. One should also note that just because one's screenplay won't work as a short story doesn't mean the screenplay isn't "the bee's knees".

HH

stainjm
08-29-2012, 05:04 PM
I think it is one method that could work for a short story - I've never tried it myself, but don't see why it couldn't work. My short stories tend not to have that 3 act structure, and sometimes people ding me for it, so I say give it a go.

Richmond Weems
08-29-2012, 05:13 PM
I think we should ask Raymond Carver what he thinks:

http://www.writingtolive.com/2011/09/becoming-writer-raymond-carvers-essay.html

HH

ChadStrohl
08-29-2012, 05:35 PM
I don't know. I've tried it all and short stories are the hardest nut to crack. There's something alien about them. I like to read them. I don't dare to presume I can write one.

stainjm
08-30-2012, 09:40 AM
Here's where my short story will appear this November - http://o-dark-thirty.org/the-review/.

"O-Dark-Thirty"

Any other vets on here? Submit something - the guys running it are great.

mswriterj
08-30-2012, 09:50 AM
Here's where my short story will appear this November - http://o-dark-thirty.org/the-review/.

"O-Dark-Thirty"

Any other vets on here? Submit something - the guys running it are great.

Excellent. I'll look for it in November.

mgwriter
09-03-2012, 12:16 AM
I think we should ask Raymond Carver what he thinks:

http://www.writingtolive.com/2011/09/becoming-writer-raymond-carvers-essay.html

HH

Harold Hecuba,

Uh, my post really was not about how to become a master of short form literature.

Uh, my post was not about how easy it is to write "great literature". I figured most people would realize I was not posting instructions on "how to write great literature" in a screenwriting forum for screenwriters. My bad for making that assumption.

Uh, my post was not about literature at all. The main goal is still selling screenplays, which is why I'm posting on a screenwriting forum and not a forum about aspiring to write great literature.

Eventually most screenwriters will have to write a treatment of their story. Tweaking the treatment a small bit can lead to a short story version. Will that short story be great literature? Who cares? The main goal is still selling the scripts. However, that quick short story version can be completed much faster than writing the whole novel version and it can definitely be published somewhere, even if self published. Having a piece of published "source material" that the screenplay is based upon MIGHT be something SOME writers might want to do for certain "ownership of rights" issues that I'm not going to go into. Oh wait, does Hollywood even buy scripts based on source material? Hmm(i'll have to research that and get back to you) So if writing a short story of your script doesn't work for you, by all means, skip it, but to say it's "wrong on so many levels" is, well, wrong. MY POST HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH HOW TO WRITE GREAT LITERATURE. People write what they write, whether or not it's great totally depends on their talent, style, choices, etc. But how many people on this board have the goal of writing great literature anyway? I'm guessing not as many as have the goal of selling screenplays, which is the main goal of my previous post.

Many people write short stories. Many of those short stories are not "great literature", but they still may have VALUE in their own right. Here I am talking about literature again when my post had absolutely nothing to do with literature!

It's like you're trying really hard to post something, anything negative about my post, but you missed the mark on this one, that link you posted has absolutely nothing to do with the subject I was posting about.

If you disagree with my post, that's fine. But perhaps you can provide another possible solution for screenwriters looking to keep ownership of some of their story rights through the use of fiction (not necessarily great literature) and publication as a means to do so? After all, this forum is about sharing of ideas, right? So rather than stomping on ideas by saying something is "wrong on many levels", perhaps you can offer up an alternative suggestion that RELATES TO SUBJECT AT HAND.

Richmond Weems
09-03-2012, 05:07 AM
Harold Hecuba,

Uh, my post really was not about how to become a master of short form literature.

That was obvious.

Uh, my post was not about how easy it is to write "great literature". I figured most people would realize I was not posting instructions on "how to write great literature" in a screenwriting forum for screenwriters. My bad for making that assumption.

Yeah, you said that already.

Uh, my post was not about literature at all. The main goal is still selling screenplays, which is why I'm posting on a screenwriting forum and not a forum about aspiring to write great literature.

Again: you said that already.

Eventually most screenwriters will have to write a treatment of their story. Tweaking the treatment a small bit can lead to a short story version. Will that short story be great literature? Who cares?

A treatment and a short story are different things, and "tweaking" the former doesn't make it the latter.

The main goal is still selling the scripts. However, that quick short story version can be completed much faster than writing the whole novel version and it can definitely be published somewhere, even if self published. Having a piece of published "source material" that the screenplay is based upon MIGHT be something SOME writers might want to do for certain "ownership of rights" issues that I'm not going to go into. Oh wait, does Hollywood even buy scripts based on source material? Hmm(i'll have to research that and get back to you) So if writing a short story of your script doesn't work for you, by all means, skip it, but to say it's "wrong on so many levels" is, well, wrong. MY POST HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH HOW TO WRITE GREAT LITERATURE. People write what they write, whether or not it's great totally depends on their talent, style, choices, etc. But how many people on this board have the goal of writing great literature anyway? I'm guessing not as many as have the goal of selling screenplays, which is the main goal of my previous post.

"Ownership" isn't even an issue. You own the copyright of whatever you write as soon as you write it. You know what would be the best way to prove to Hollywood that you own the rights to whatever you write? Register the copyright with the US Copyright Office.

If you're saying that having a treatment (or, as you call it, a "short story") "published" gives you some kind of leverage for your screenplay, you're mistaken. Not only is it more expensive to self-publish ONE short story, but publishing doesn't protect you or give you any advantage in negotiating a deal for your screenplay. Especially if it's a bad short story.

Many people write short stories. Many of those short stories are not "great literature", but they still may have VALUE in their own right. Here I am talking about literature again when my post had absolutely nothing to do with literature!

You keep repeating yourself.

It's like you're trying really hard to post something, anything negative about my post, but you missed the mark on this one, that link you posted has absolutely nothing to do with the subject I was posting about.

No, I didn't try too hard at all. Barely took any effort. As far as the link goes, it was more to educate anyone else that you had no idea what you were talking about when you confuse a "short story" with a "treatment".

If you disagree with my post, that's fine. But perhaps you can provide another possible solution for screenwriters looking to keep ownership of some of their story rights through the use of fiction (not necessarily great literature) and publication as a means to do so? After all, this forum is about sharing of ideas, right? So rather than stomping on ideas by saying something is "wrong on many levels", perhaps you can offer up an alternative suggestion that RELATES TO SUBJECT AT HAND.

Yeah, register the copyright of your work. Worry about separation of rights when it's time to worry about them, i.e. when you actually sell something and have a lawyer involved. Publishing a short story doesn't make you an author that Hollywood needs to reckon with. It doesn't give you the leverage you seem to think it does.

If you want to write a short story, go ahead. Couldn't hurt. But the "advice" you posted on how to write a short story, great literature or not, is completely wrong. And that you seem to equate doing something well as "great literature" indicates you definitely don't know what you're talking about.

HH

stainjm
09-16-2012, 06:36 PM
I mentioned I would post my short story link when it came out - here it is!

http://o-dark-thirty.org/2012/09/16/the-obituaries/#more-160

mswriterj
09-16-2012, 11:06 PM
I mentioned I would post my short story link when it came out - here it is!

http://o-dark-thirty.org/2012/09/16/the-obituaries/#more-160


Loved it! Thanks for sharing.

stainjm
09-17-2012, 12:06 PM
Thank you for reading!